Lakes District Hospital operations manager Janeen Holmes (left) and clinical nurse co-ordinator Jennie Burt in the resuscitation room on Monday. It is far quicker and cheaper for Wakatipu residents and visitors suffering minor injuries to seek treatment by a GP in a clinic than attend the hospital's busy emergency department this summer. Photo by James Beech.
Lakes District Hospital is urging anyone suffering minor
complaints to consult general practitioners instead of the
emergency department (ED) as medical staff brace themselves
for the summer flood of alcohol and synthetic drug
The Southern District Health Board (DHB) is concerned more
overseas tourists, plus domestic visitors and festive
revellers, including up to 10,000 festival-goers at the debut
Rhythm and Alps festival near Cardrona, as well as the
swelling resident population, will put unprecedented pressure
on the only southern ED outside Dunedin and Invercargill.
The ED of the 24-bed rural hospital in Frankton is staffed
overnight by only one doctor and one nurse, although other
medics are on call.
Even during the known peak times of medical emergencies - New
Year's Eve, New Year's Day and January 2 - only one extra
doctor and two or three extra nurses are on duty in the ED.
Compared with other hospitals, Lakes District Hospital
already has the highest overall prevalence of alcohol-related
presentations, a higher prevalence of alcohol-related
conditions in older age categories and a higher prevalence
ED staff are also seeing an increase in patients intoxicated
on synthetic cannabis, especially people aged 18 to 30, and
they expect an influx of emergency cases from Rhythm and
Clinical nurse co-ordinator and nurse Jennie Burt said
patients on ''herbal highs'' were more difficult to treat
than drunks because they suffered cardiac complications and
mental health issues, often did not know what they consumed
and took an uncertain length of time to recover.
Ms Burt said the type of non-urgent cases taking up valuable
ED time and resources included minor cuts and bruises,
sprains, colds and even sunburn.
Anyone could telephone the hospital for triage advice to see
if they should visit the ED or a GP with their complaint if
they were not sure, she said.
Hospital operations manager Janeen Holmes said overseas
tourists went to the hospital for all levels of treatment
because they could see it signposted near the airport and did
not know where medical centres were.
Domestic visitors might present their injury at an ED in the
belief they would be treated instantly and free of charge.
However, non-urgent patients are charged an attendance fee,
which is more than a GP's bill, and patients are prioritised
for treatment on the severity of their injury, not on how
long they have been waiting, which can be extended at any
moment and means hours spent in the hospital waiting room.
Holiday medical care
• If it is not an emergency, contact your GP, or call
Healthline free on 0800 611 116.
• Queenstown Medical Centre will run a walk-in clinic on
Christmas Day, 11am-4pm and New Year's Day, 9am to 8 pm.
• The surgery will operate as usual at all other times, which
includes a walk-in clinic from 9am to 8pm on weekends.
• Remarkables Park Town Centre and Arrowtown clinics will be
closed on weekends and holidays, as usual.
Holidaying in hospital
• The Southern DHB found presentations to the Lakes District
Hospital's emergency department had been highest during the
peak holiday months of July, August, January and December for
at least the past three years.
• Presentations during December 2010 and January 2011
totalled 1232, averaging 626 per month.
• Presentations during December 2011 and January 2012
increased to 1460, averaging 730 per month.
• Presentations during December 2012 and January 2013 fell
slightly to total 1448, averaging 724 per month.
• Those peak months compare with the quietest period of the
year, from February to June, when presentations averaged 480
a month in 2011, 537 a month in 2012 and 561 a month in 2013.
• This year there was an increase of 163 presentations a
month during January and February compared to quieter times.